Monday 8 June 2015

Sugar rant

The Telegraph has run a story about sugar not making children hyperactive. It's not the first time this has been pointed out. It has often been reported that the sugar-hyperactivity theory is a myth - see here, here and here for example - but since it is a very pervasive myth it does no harm to mention it again.

The Telegraph report is based on a comment by a psychologist, David Benton, at a recent science festival, so it is not really news, but at least it is true. Benton is also quoted as saying, quite correctly, that the release of dopamine in the brain that comes about as a result of eating sugar does not mean that sugar is like cocaine.

So far, so good. But the article ends with what can only be described as a deranged rant by Graham MacGregor, the chair of Action on Sugar (and also the chair of Consensus Action on Salt and Health), who says...

“The food industry is overfeeding us with vast amounts of sugar,” he said.

“Why should we ban tobacco while allowing advertising of food that is going to kill people? It’s a scandal. We need a tax on soft drinks.

"What we eat is now the biggest cause of death and disability in the world and food industry to blame. Processed food is full of fat and salt and sugar with no feeling of satiation."

Can a grown human being have really spouted these words? Doesn't he sound like a parody of a swivel-eyed fanatic?

I would be genuinely fascinated to know what Telegraph readers think when they read MacGregor's comments. The majority of them, surely, will think 'phew, what a loony', but there must be some that nod along. Some of them will no doubt think that he must know what he's talking about because he's a doctor.

A few readers may even think MacGregor's views are the only sensible thing in the article. They may actually believe that processed food provides "no feeling of satiation" or that tobacco and sugar are basically the same thing. They may believe that the food industry is responsible for "the biggest cause of death and disability in the world"—a nonsense claim based on a ridiculous methodology.

I am inclined to think that the best thing to do with MacGregor is to let him talk (likewise his chump of a colleague Aseem Malhotra), but it is scary to think that somebody out there must fall for this rubbish.

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